Protest tactics came to life on Saturday at PG, where attendees at Evansville Letters to Prisoners' event could learn how to "lock down" to equipment, create barricades, make face masks out of everyday items, shield themselves from state violence, and compile and use a street medic kit.
Participants could also make prayer ties and participate in a drum circle facilitated by members of a group of native and non-native people who meet regularly to drum. The repeated rounds of drumming throughout the event echoed the role that spirituality has played at Standing Rock. Drummers carried in mind a particular intention during each round of drumming, including positive intentions for water protectors and hope that those seen as enemies--cops, security personnel, politicians--change their minds and hearts.
After having participated in a non-violent direct action to confront Bakken’s boring under the Mississippi River for the Dakota Access Pipeline (read more here), I was arrested and assigned an arraignment date for mid-October. While in Keokuk, I stayed at what was the Mississippi Stand action camp for several days. This reflection touches on some of most poignant moments for me.
About 20 people who had been arrested with me had arraignments scheduled for October 19. We were shuffled in the judge’s room a handful at a time, along with others from Keokuk who were appearing in front of the judge for whatever random things cops had arrested them for.
Mississippi Stand's latest direct action successfully stopping Dakota Access Pipeline construction in Keokuk, IA, consists of water protectors blocking Bakken trucks from entering their sludge dumpsite. What is this "sludge" and where does it come from?
A few weeks ago, I met up with about 150 people in Keokuk, Iowa, to stop Dakota Access Pipeline construction in the small town and under the Mississippi River. By the end of the day, we'd stopped construction for about an hour, and 44 of us had been arrested, cited for trespass, released, and given dates to appear in court for an arraignment.
I had been in Iowa to attend an annual Catholic Worker gathering, a weekend of camping, roundtables, skits, and socializing, mostly with Christian anarchist folks from the Midwest who are engaged in hospitality, simple living with people at the margins, and social activism, either on farming communes or communal houses in cities.
Eight of us decided to take advantage of our proximity to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and spent Saturday, September 17, with protesters at Mississippi Stand, where Catholic Workers and others had already been disrupting pipeline construction for several weeks.
As we were driving toward the site on Saturday morning, we noticed a sign for "protest parking" at the end of a gravel driveway. We turned down the drive and met a kind family who was offering their yard and driveway as a parking lot for people coming to the demonstration. We parked and took a tractor-pulled ride down to the protest site.
I went to the Standing Rock event at the Four Freedoms monument last Sunday. I have been inspired by the North Dakota protest because it was initiated by the local people (Dakota Indians) and because of the protest's diversity of tactics--from imaginative non-violent blockades, law suits, and public speaking tours to land occupation, property destruction, and the public declaration that this fight is to the death. I am further compelled by how this fight, to stop an oil pipeline from being constructed through a river, being fought on Native land intersects with all of the different grounds on which the genocide of native people has been waged--state bureaucracy, environmental destruction, incarceration, economics, gender, and race to name a few. The Standing Rock encampment has swollen to over ten thousand people because the Dakota have not only waged this fight in the largest indigenous cross-national alliance in history, but welcomed everyone from anywhere in recognition that we all suffer from these same indignities.